A mobile phone: A Need or a Want?

I’m breaking out into a cold sweat.  My fingers are twitchy and I keep panicking as I come across something else I am no longer able to do.  It is an extension of me.  It is, in fact, as much a part of me as my own hand, and just as often attached to it.  I don’t think I ever truly appreciated it until now.  It is only now, when I have to work out exactly how I’m going to cope without my mobile phone, that I have come to realise how crucial this piece of technology is to me.

My phone is officially dead.  Kaput.  A pile of useless technical bits & bobs that refuse to do their job.  It has, to be fair, been limping along on the last stubs of its legs now for months, barely charging – and being incredibly temperamental about it when it does.  It has a mind of its own, and I think it often judges me.  For instance, it erased all the new friends I’d made in the last year all of its own accord.  I turned it on one day, it buzzed at me and when I went to text someone, I couldn’t because I had no idea of their phone number.  Gone in a puff, without warning.  I had to ask everyone for their details, again, on Facebook like the scatterbrained mummy I am because it didn’t occur to me to back most of this “vital” information up in a good old fashioned address book.  Only, I can’t use Facebook when out and about this time, because I need my phone for that too.

I was whining panicking talking on the phone to my husband about my predicament.  “How am I going to cope?  The world is going to end!  I NEEEEEEED my phone!” I wailed, and I was reminded of a conversation I’d once had with a group of 9 year olds.  We were discussing “needs” and “wants” as part of their citizenship education, and we had agreed that “needs” were the things that are necessary for our survival, growth and development.  “Wants,” on the other hand, are generally not essential items.  So, we were gaily categorising our flashcards:

  • clean water = NEED
  • television = WANT
  • safe shelter = NEED
  • fashionable clothing = WANT (though clothes are a need.)

So far, so good!  But deciding where to put a mobile phone seemed to flummax them.  Without exception these nine year old children insisted that a mobile phone was a need – that they need it to survive and without it they are unsafe.  They looked at me as though I’d grown an extra head when I pointed out that I hadn’t had a mobile phone until I was 18 years old, and even then, I was “ahead of the trend” with this because most people still didn’t have one.

“But how,” they cried, “did you cope if you went out, like, swimming, or something?  You need a mobile to tell someone to come pick you up.”  In fact, they couldn’t work out how I’d have even arranged the trip in the first place.  Arranging something either over the phone or ahead of time when you’re actually with someone seemed alien to them, and actually sticking to those arrangements was a novel idea, but for us (ie, people over the age of about 25), being able to instantly, easily, freely get in touch with people wasn’t an option so we didn’t think about it.  Nowadays, the children tell me, they don’t feel safe without one, and that this is an idea reinforced by their parents – parents who survived just fine without one when they were growing up.  Rather like Frank Skinner in charge of Room 101, in the end I decided that they were wrong, and that mobile phones would not make it into the NEED category.

But today, I’ve felt like my right arm has been chopped off.  So far, I’ve worked out that I use my phone for:

  1. telling the time (who needs a watch?)
  2. weather and temperature reports
  3. storing phone numbers
  4. checking Facebook
  5. checking Twitter
  6. checking emails
  7. checking WordPress stats (oops!)
  8. Relaxing aka playing games
  9. Googling random things that occur to me
  10. texting people for inane good chat
  11. making phone calls

Without my phone I suddenly feel strangely isolated, alone.  I’ve had a mild panic about the fact that someone might be trying to get ahold of me, I can’t update my Facebook status, and I’ve no idea what time it is.

But I’ve decided to look on the bright side – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and all that jazz.  This shall be a fortnight (10 working days, minimum) for me to free myself from the shackles of knowing everything that is happening to everyone I know at any given moment.  I’ve used Facebook to let people know I’m not ignoring them and I’ve taken a lot of deep breaths.  Now, I just need to learn to relax and stop looking for it.  Oh, and I need to dig out a watch.

Right now I’m still twitching at every imaginary (I hope) buzz, and I’m still compulsively checking my pockets for my phone, but this fortnight may prove to be a great thing.  Maybe now I’ll have to time to skip through the park with my children, build playdough mountains and imprison monsters in the Tower of Doom.  I think I may have a bit of a rose tinted, soft focus view of Life Without a Mobile Phone, but I’m actually quite excited now!

What do you think?  Is a mobile phone a luxury or a basic essential?  A want or a need?


6 responses to “A mobile phone: A Need or a Want?

  1. My mobile is like a luxurious essential if that makes sense? I need it to make calls when out and about (especially with the heap we call our car in danger of breaking down regularly). School can contact me whenever I might be needed to collect DS if ill or had an accident. My hubby has a long commute by bicycle and train, and I feel safer knowing that he’s made it to the train in once piece – just by him sending one quick text. I use it to tell the time. It is also my diary. To me these are all essentials.

    The luxurious bit comes from the fact that I can do more than text, call, keep appointments and tell the time on my smart phone….I can check twitter, my blog, facebook, play angry birds and tiny tower, write my shopping list, go geocaching, read the news, ebay, read ebooks, take pictures, record videos of my little darlings, have voice calls with rellies who live the otherside of the country, job hunt on the move, look things up on google/wikipedia and much more.

    I couldn’t make do without a phone…but I probably could survive on a much more basic phone…if I really really had to! I don’t have to do I?

    • Lol, that’s very true. A basic phone should be all we really need. I still think that we have forgotten how to cope when people aren’t with us. Mobile phones certainly make it easier to check why my husband isn’t home at his usual time, and, though there are emergency phones on the motorway, it IS much easier if we have a phone on hand in case we breakdown elsewhere.

      But really, how did our parents cope without these things? Were they hardier than us and less likely to stress if they couldn’t be contacted instantly, or is it simply because there is an expectation that we have a phone?

      So few people are without a mobile phone now that life has adjusted accordingly. There are fewer payphones around so perhaps a mobile is more important when out, and we aren’t called upon to remember phone numbers very often so we’re losing that skill. When my phone wouldn’t charge after getting the sleeper bus down to London, I couldn’t call home to confirm my safe arrival and my onward train time so someone could pick me up. Luckily I managed to track down a payphone and eventually dredged up my dad’s mobile number from somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind, but I used to know the house numbers of all my friends. In fact, I can still reel off some of those 12 year old numbers now, but my mum’s mobile number? A total mystery to me – it’s in my phone, why put my brain to the bother of learning it?

      I’ll be able to put to the test just how much I rely on my phone over the next few weeks though. Hopefully it’s not too much…

  2. It is a luxury for me, used only to keep in touch with my two girls away at school, and my 17 year old son since he takes two city buses to get to school (the phone is used for emergencies). Neither my son nor me have data on our phones, and it’s no biggy. When I go away camping, in the deep forest, I love that my phone doesn’t have reception. Btw: hubby doesn’t have a cell, and doesn’t want one.

  3. Great blog – I tip the balance to the ‘want’ direction. Have so far avoided doing anything with my phone other than calls or texts, but………………. I also feel weird if I haven’t got it, feel the need to check how many calls I’ve missed (usually none) the minute I find it.

  4. Ha! I love the fact that “making calls” is the last on your list of necessary uses for your phone. Mine is so old it doesnt even have internet.. I ‘want’ and ‘need’ a new phone, purely to check the weather of course, I mean, who needs windows! 🙂

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